Container Gardening for Dummies


gardening with containers

Container Gardening for Dummies

“Necessity is the mother of all invention”. With the rise of smaller spaces for urban dwellers, container gardening is probably one of the most creative alternative the modern gardener has come up with. It is flexible, portable, and can work with whatever space you have available. You can grow both ornamental and edible plants. One of the perks of container gardening include not having to do tedious preparations and weeding that the traditional garden calls for. Sounds interesting? Here are a few fail-safe suggestions on how to start and maintain your very own container garden:

flowers planted in containers

Tools for Your Garden

Since you will not be tilling the land and will not buse a lot of space, container gardening does not require a lot of tools. Most of the time, a trowel, a hand fork and some gloves will be all you need. When you get bigger plants that need pruning, this is when you’ll need a pair of sharp shears, for smaller plants that need trimming, a pair of sharp kitchen scissors can do the trick. You will also need potting mix. You need something that is already premixed instead of just soil as your plants will need all the nutrients it can get.

trowel for gardening

How to choose container garden pots

The fun part about container gardening is that it can be very affordable. You can use empty plastic bottles, you just need to poke holes in it for drainage. Or you can purchase specialty containers that can match your home’s interior design, your balcony or patio. Containers come in all shapes and sizes, what you need to put into consideration is the size of the plant as it grows and transfer to bigger pots when necessary.

How to choose your location

Sunlight is an important factor in gardening–even for container gardening. Find a suitable area in your home the gets an adequate amount of sunlight. The amount and strength of sunlight you can find available will determine what kind of plants can thrive in your environment. Spend a day in your home observing which areas get full afternoon sun, which ones get partial sun and areas with very little to none. If you find that you may have inadequate sunlight to properly grow plants, try looking into artificial light to substitute natural sunlight.

potted plants receiving sunlight

How to choose your plants

One of the most popular choices for container gardening are potted herbs. They’re compact, easy to grow, can be a good ornament to your kitchen, and are very aromatic..Some of the easiest herb to grow include basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme. Lettuces, tomatoes, and cucumbers are also a popular choice when you have a little more space to spare. It is also possible to grow dwarf varieties of trees such as apples, pear, and fig.

potted herbs

How to fertilize

As your plants are isolated from a big body of soil, your plants will need more consistent fertilizing. Start with a slow release fertilizer in your potting soil to ensure your plants are not starved. To complement this, you can add a fish emulsion or a diluted liquid fertilizer every few weeks. It is also wise to add a kind of mulch on top of your plants to prevent erosion.

Container gardening is not only for the urban gardener, it is also a good option when soil in your area can be problematic or have been exposed to diseases.  When in doubt, consult your local nursery or gardening shop on what seeds/seedlings they have available for your garden that can thrive in your area.

Which Garden Bugs are Good for Your Garden?

lady beetle perched on a blade of grassYou have just begun your new garden, and the seedlings have begun to thrive and flourish. This is the time when bugs, pests and other organisms begin to inhabit the new ecosystem that is your garden. Some of them will want to harm your plants and you will want to take those out. But, there are also bugs that are beneficial and are necessary in helping your garden flourish while keeping away pests or diseases that may endanger your plants. Also, they can completely replace the use of pesticides.

Here are some friendly bugs that can help your garden, how they can help, and how to identify them:

Lady Beetle



Famous for their red trunk and black spots, this lovely bug is the easiest to spot and is one of the most beneficial garden pet you can have. Both adult and larvae ladybugs feed on aphids, mites, and other soft bodied bugs that may be invading your garden. An adult lady beetle can eat up to 50 aphids in one day! Ask your garden center or local gardening store if they are selling some.

Ground Beetle

black beetle

Similar to lady beetles, these nocturnal creatures feed on slugs, snails, insect eggs and larvae. They are quite easy to notice as they can grow as big as ¾ inch, can be dark blue/dark brown and have long legs. Invite them to your garden by providing ground covers like logs or stones.




Characterized by their large wings that look wispy and lace-like, this garden bug is a voracious predator that devours aphids, moth eggs, small caterpillars, and scales. When they are not pouncing on garden pests, they do love nectar. Plant a few flowering plants around your garden to attract Lacewings.



There are a number of species of dragonflies around the world. Their distinct four transparent wings, large eyes, and narrow body make them easy to spot. Aside from being very beautiful, dragonflies feed on mosquitoes, aphids and other pests that may be wandering around your garden. A pond, or any small body of water where they can deposit their larvae will surely attract dragonflies in your area.


honey bee

Probably one of the most important bugs to invite to your garden, they do one of the most important tasks, pollinate many of your plants. These buzzing garden friends are easily identified by their thick balls of yellow fuzzy pollen near their heads and their gold and black stripes. Encourage wild honey bees to visit your garden by growing flowering plants. Not only will you be getting a garden pollinator, you will also be helping the dwindling population of these busy workers grow their numbers

Learning which bugs can help your garden and how to introduce them to your crops are a healthier alternative to using pesticide that may harm you and your family in the long run. Check out your local gardening shop, odds are they have their own nursery for these helpful bugs or will have the resources needed to attract them to your garden.


Raised Bed Gardens

Picture of a Raised Bed GardenHow to create a Raised Bed Garden

A raised garden bed is a must have for the advanced gardener. In a nutshell, a raised garden bed is like a huge plant box that offers a lot of benefits to the gardener by creating a controlled environment designed to provide a plant’s needs to grow better and yield more produce.

Ready to start creating a raised bed garden? Here’s how:

4×8 is an Ideal Size

After picking a free spot in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight, it’s time to measure your raised bed dimensions. 4 feet wide by 8 feet long is usually a good size because most lumber are sold in 4-feet or 8-feet increments. You don’t want to make your raised bed garden too big so you can plant a variety of plants that thrive in different soil mixes while avoiding spread of diseases. If you are planning on using a bigger part of your garden, consider creating multiple raised beds.

Multiple Raised Garden Beds


Prepare the Area
There are a couple of ways to prepare the area for your raised garden bed. The traditional method is called Double dig. It involves removing top soil and loosening the subsoil while replacing the top soil with organic matter. This can be quite labor-intensive but provides excellent irrigation, traps warmth in the soil, and allows deeper rooting for your plants. The minimum depth of your bed is around 6-12 inches

picture of someone double digging garden beds


Building your Bed
The bed can be made of timber and other types of woods like cedar, blocks, bricks or even plastic (faux) timber. Assemble the construction materials using screws or galvanized nails.

Woman assembling a garden bed


A Good Potting Mix is a Good Start
Some produce thrive better on acidic conditions, while others like a more alkaline environment. This is where you can make sure the plants get exactly what they need to thrive. Add your potting mix and start planting or transplanting your greens!


Plant in potting mix


Raised bed gardening allows the gardener to give their plants the environment it needs to thrive. It’s also a great option for areas that have problematic soil that are prone to pests, frost, nutrient-deficiency, and compacting.


Basic Gardening Tools

woman with basic gardening tools

Gardening can be beneficial in a number of ways. It’s therapeutic, meditative and brings us closer to Mother Nature. Some studies even show that getting your hands in the dirt can help boost the immune system.


The daunting part comes when you start getting the tools and products you need. “Will it be expensive?”, “What if I don’t have all the tools?” are some of the questions that make many soon-to-be-gardeners a little apprehensive. Some of us may have a limited amount of budget and that’s not a bad thing. Look at it this way, you can focus on the basics and build your way from there. With a limited budget in mind, here are 4 basic gardening tools that can help you get started.

Gardening Trowel

gardening trowel

One of the best multi-purpose tools that your garden can have. Usually a made with a forged blade with a wooden handle, this tool can be used to dig hard, rocky soil. The good thing about a good garden trowel is that it can double up as a shovel for small gardens, a weeder, and as a substitute for soil knives.  Look for pointy, scoop-shaped stainless steel blades that is sharp enough to function as a soil knife that is shaped well to sweep and gather soil properly.  



Gardening without the proper equipment can leave you susceptible to allergens, bacteria and cuts from sharp rocks, thorns, or pointy foreign objects that may be in the soil. This makes a good pair of gardening gloves a good investment to keep your green hands safe. Look for a pair that is well knitted and lightweight. Leather is also a good material to look for as it helps provide a good grip.

gardening glovesFork


Another multi-purpose tool for the newbie gardener. A fork can work as an aerator and a soil cultivator. This also works great for mixing compost, wood chips, organic mulch and rubber mulch, wood chips, and manure. A smaller fork works best for small shrubs and flowerbeds. Looked for forged steel as they are stronger and more suitable for digging through compacted soil and hard rocks. This works hand in hand with your garden trowel.

Garden Shears

From pruning, trimming vines, cutting herbs, and even grass – just make sure to keep it clean in between uses. A good, lightweight pair of garden shears can go a long way. Sharp is the best trait your pruning shears can have. Sharp enough to create clean cut stems or vines to prevent diseases from infecting your plants. If you are suffering from arthritis, carpal tunnel or other physical ailments, many garden shears are designed with adjustable tensions and ergonomic grip to make the task easier.


Watering Can

watering can

A portable container with a spout is your best bet to make sure you water you plants deeply and evenly. The best part? You don’t necessary need to spend with this tool. All you need is some creativity to upcycle items that can be found at your home. You can piece hole on a used plastic bottle or recycle an old can and you’re set

That didn’t sound so expensive right? From there you can start building your tool collection as your garden grows. Looking for more tips to save on gardening? Here are 10 gardening hacks that can help without creating a huge dent on your wallet.


Vegetable Gardening Tips for Beginners

a bowl of vegetables

Vegetable Gardening Tips for Beginners

Growing your own vegetables can be very rewarding. You know exactly where your food is coming from, and you get them in their freshest state. Studies also show that horticulture can be very therapeutic. It is a great stress-reliever, improves mood, and overall mental health!

The best part? You do not need a green thumb or a backyard to get started. Here are a few tips to help you start your mini garden in with whatever space you have available.

Consider Indoor Gardening

The best part about bringing your plants inside is weather control. Prevent frost, too much sun or drowning your plants from harsh weather conditions by taking them in the comforts of your home. You can also benefit from the additional oxygen the vegetables produce.

Use Small Pots and Hanging Containers

These are great space-savers. Small pots are easy to move around, especially if you’re trying to give your plants more sunlight than your apartment could provide, while hanging containers take whatever free space you have above your head. If you have a wall in your house that is getting a lot of sun, look into installing a vertical garden and save the paint on that wall from fading from prolonged sun exposure.

Start with Plants that are Easy to Care For

Salad greens and lettuce are some of the easiest produce to grow and can still thrive even in partial shade.  Cherry tomatoes are small, flavorful, can grow in hanging containers. Cucumbers and other climbing vegetables will work great with vertical gardening. Once you’ve gained some confidence, you can try growing some strawberries in small pots or grow a variety of root crops like sweet potatoes, radishes or turnips in small buckets.

Use Good Quality Mulch

One of the challenges of indoor gardening is keeping the dirt in your pots and out of your living room floor. Constant watering and moving your plants around will erode and take out the nutrients in the container that your vegetables need to thrive. Mulching keeps all the dirt in place. While organic mulch are very cheap and easy to acquire, it decomposes quickly and some materials emit a sour smell that can spread in your house. Rubber mulch can help keep all the soil in place while matching your home décor. Make sure you invest in the high quality rubber mulch that has been stripped off of metal pieces and fine rubber particles.

Do not underwater/overwater your plants

This may be easy to overlook and is the usual culprit behind your nursery not providing a good harvest or worse: dying before they bear fruit. Water your plants at least once a week, more if the season is particularly dry and hot. A good rule of thumb is to lightly scratch the top of the soil, if it crumble give your vegetables a good watering. If it’s still moist, give it a day or two to absorb all the moisture in the soil.

Vegetable gardening can be truly satisfying without the need for a lot of space, equipment or experience. All you need to start is a lot of patience for trial and error and some TLC as you wait for harvest season. Happy Gardening!



Five Creative Garden Party Ideas

table in a gardenSummer is almost here, so let the outdoor parties begin! A garden in full bloom or an immaculately trimmed lawn could already serve as pretty backdrops, but if you’re the creative type, you may want to up your outdoor decoration game a bit. Here are some great garden party decorating suggestions you could try for your next al fresco gathering.


Tell a little gardening story with your menu


Are you serving salad with ingredients from your own herb or vegetable garden? Tell the story of how they were lovingly planted and harvested with your guests in mind. You can make a short description of the salad in the menu by adding that they were grown in your own backyard. You can also serve up food buffet-style and label each dish with a framed text of how they were picked and prepared.


Intersperse potted succulents with cupcakes


Cupcakes and cacti: never the twain shall meet? On tiered cupcake holders, they can. Give your dessert table a fresh twist by arranging your favorite succulents in-between cupcakes or other sweet treats you are serving. If cactus isn’t your thing, you can place fresh flowers, instead.


“Float” flowers and candles in water as a centerpiece

candles floating in water

For romantic candle-lit dinners, look no further than your own flower beds for inspiration. Put some water in a long shallow dish – just enough to make votive candles and cut flowers float. You can also use bowls or other clear containers. The harmony of velvety petals, soft lighting, and reflections on the water will create a calming effect on guests.


Put up little canopies all over your garden


What is summer without a little picnic? Even a small shade is welcome if the sun is shining too brightly. Don’t worry if your garden or lawn doesn’t have trees: a piece of canvas stretched out with rope over your picnic spot should do the trick. You can also use beach umbrellas to provide shade for your guests.


Serve up fruit kebabs in a rainbow pattern

shish kabob

Fruits are sweetest and at their most succulent in the summer. Shine a spotlight on their juiciness and bright colors by serving them up in skewers at your party. You can follow a rainbow pattern by using strawberries or cherries first, followed by orange slices, then pineapple chunks, kiwi, blueberries, and grapes.

Organic Mulch vs. Inorganic Mulch

rubber mulch and wood mulch

Organic Versus Inorganic

Because organic mulches decompose, they need to be replaced.  Depending on the type of mulch used, replacement intervals vary from one to four years.

Biodegradable mulches

These break down gradually to release nutrients into the soil and help improve its structure. Layers will need replacing when the material has fully rotted down. Among the best materials are leaf mould, garden compost, spent mushroom compost, wood chippings, processed conifer bark, well rotted manure, straw (for strawberries), spent hops (poisonous if eaten by dogs) and seaweed.

Replenish mulch when there’s 1 inch or less of it. How often you need to replace it depends on how fast the material decomposes, exposure to the sun, temperature, the amount of rainfall, and the length of your growing season. Generally, I top off my mulch once a year. To keep from disturbing the soil, simply add another layer to the existing mulch.

Recycled rubber mulch is an attractive, durable alternative to traditional wood mulch, and can save money over time. Replacing mulch every year becomes time consuming and expensive. Compared with the expense of annually applying wood mulch, the up-front purchase of rubber mulch actually costs up to 65 percent less over a nominal five-year period.


Organic mulches require annual replacement because they break down and decompose, eventually adding organic matter and nutrients into the soil. Bark and wood nuggets must be maintained at a depth of 2 inches to provide the best benefits, so fresh mulch must be added on top at least once a year to maintain this depth.

When to replace mulch in the garden depends a great deal upon the type of mulch and what you want to accomplish. Winter mulches should be removed in spring, after the danger of frost has passed, while summer and spring organic mulches are generally replaced annually. Many gardeners wait until after they prune to replace the mulch so that pruning cleanup and mulch replacement is combined into one task.

Maintain mulch. Replace mulch as needed during the growing season to maintain the 2- to 4-inch depth. Rake up and replace organic mulch in the spring, especially around roses and fruit trees.


Designing a Drought-Resistant Lawn

Sprout coming out of cracked concrete


Widespread drought has cast a dark shadow on the gardening community. In these times of water conservation, many homeowners and institutions have come under fire for using sprinklers or garden hoses to water their lawns. Lawn maintenance and caring for one’s garden are in danger of becoming wasteful activities.

Fortunately, there are ways to still have a beautiful garden and keep it thriving without using up too much water. You can opt to make it a DIY project, or consult a professional gardener to draw up a plan for your drought-resistant lawn. Either way, the secret is in keeping everything practical and low-maintenance while creating visual panache.

Create texture with rocks and plants  

A smooth, well-manicured lawn is impractical during a drought because it is difficult to maintain with minimal water supplies. It is also hard to hide dry and barren patches on a flat lawn. Go for a mixed-garden bed instead. You can make up for possible visual gaps in your lawn with different textures and shapes. Sandstone boulders and paving stones can be interspersed with tall native grasses that do not require constant watering – plus they can prevent erosion while allowing rainwater to hydrate the soil.

Install a drip-irrigation system

Drip irrigation system

This is an effective way to keep your plants directly hydrated without wasting water the way a sprinkler system does. A drip-irrigation system can be adjusted to suit the season so you can take advantage of moisture from the cold months.

Choose drought-tolerant plants

There are low-maintenance plants that only need irrigation once every couple of months. Some drought-tolerant shrubs, trees, evergreens, and perennials include yarrow, Spanish lavender, African daisies, bottlebrush, rockroses, juniper, myrtle, oleander, bougainvillea, yellow bells, aloe, all manner of cacti, and most native plants. Many of these examples have minimal to moderate watering needs, come in a variety of colorful blooms attractive to hummingbirds and bees, and feature gorgeous textures and scents.

Use mulch to keep moisture locked in

rubber mulch

Black Rubber Mulch

Mulching is an effective solution to keep moisture locked in the soil where it needs it most. Rubber mulch is particularly reliable at keeping the soil and plant roots hydrated because it doesn’t retain moisture itself. Just two inches of mulch spread out evenly between plants can keep temperatures even and foliage healthy and thriving.

Select garden ornaments that provide shade while beautifying

Stone or wooden benches, birdbaths, gazebos, and sculpted garden ornaments not only add drama to your lawn, but also much-needed shade for grass and flowers. Keep textures and shapes varied to heighten visual appeal. It’s also good to consider how these ornaments can catch rainwater for plants, the way sloping stones, fountains, and ponds do.




How to Design a Rubber Mulch Pathway

Rubber mulch pathway

Sustainability has become a watchword not just in terms of food production, packaging, and architecture, but also in the decorative aspects of many lifestyles. In recent times, rubber mulch has become an unexpected solution to landscaping projects and outdoor decorating. It not only offers alternative design ideas – rubber mulch also cuts down on repetitive maintenance and expensive upkeep.

You can start your own sustainable exterior design project with a simple rubber mulch pathway. Here’s how:

Rake, remove debris, and prep the surface area

A pathway has a lot of foot traffic, so after defining the area where that occurs, it’s time to prepare the surface. You can choose to use paving stones surrounded by mulch, or have a walkway that’s completely covered by rubber mulch. Either way, prepping the surface area is a must.

Rake the area to grade it and to ensure a level surface. Remove all loose stones, debris, and fallen twigs and leaves from the area. Weed if there’s any presence of it. Then dig a one-inch demarcation for the path so that water can be allowed to flow. This is especially important if you are planning to have shrubbery or trees flanking the pathway.

Flatten the terrain

Use a garden hoe to further flatten the area where the mulch will go. If there is a lot of dirt, you can evenly distribute it and pat it down using a shovel. Break or remove calcified dirt; it can create lumps in the landscaping fabric if you don’t.

roll of geofabric

Install landscaping fabric

Carefully roll out the landscaping fabric over the prepared area. If you want plants or other decorative accents in the walkway, cut an X the areas where they will go on the fabric using scissors. Secure the edges of the fabric using landscape spikes. Take special care not to create air pockets in the fabric as these can be inviting to weeds.

Apply rubber mulch

Select the color of rubber mulch you’d like for your pathway. Use a shovel to lay the rubber mulch in place over the landscaping fabric. If you have a decorative mosaic in mind, carefully mark the patterns using different colored mulch before filling up the outlines with more mulch. The rubber mulch should be around two inches deep for effective shock absorbency and weed protection.

Smooth the surface over

Once installed, use the garden hoe to smoothen the rubber mulch surface. This ensures that you have an even walkable surface and prevent people from tripping or slipping. Smoothen the area further after installing ornaments or path lights. In the case of plants, be sure not to pile up rubber mulch near the roots so that there’s room to breathe.




Top Ten Mulching Mistakes

mulch with a shovel in it

For a lot of people, mulching seems like a pretty straightforward tool and task – just spread it over your garden soil, and you won’t have to worry about weeds anymore! Unfortunately, this is just one of the biggest mistaken notions about mulching. Below are ten more common ones that need to be corrected for your garden’s sake.


  • Not clearing weeds before mulching

Mulch smothers weeds, but it won’t be very effective if you don’t weed before applying mulch. Actually, you’re more likely to cause harm to your plants if you neglect weeding as a first step because they will be harder to control under a bed of mulch. It’s important to eradicate all weeds, spores, and fungi prior to mulching to really make sure that your garden soil is weed-free.


  • Not giving mulch ample time to compost

Many professional gardeners agree that composting is a great way to keep plants nourished and thriving. However, improperly composted materials, when used as mulch, could harm your plants instead of helping them. Manure, tree bark, straw, and other organic materials that aren’t composted could provide excess heat that will make plants wither and die.


  • Mulching too little

Mulching is a must, and those who don’t do it are subject to a whole lot of gardening consequences (chief among them is that weeds can penetrate the thin layer of mulch). In a similar fashion, those who mulch too little would just be wasting their time, effort, and money. There is a proper way to mulch, but rest assured it isn’t about…


  • Mulching too much

Too much mulching is also a big no-no. The appropriate amount of mulch to use is between two and three inches. More than that can stress the plants, especially in harsh weather. A very thick layer of mulch could also prevent water and fertilizer from getting through to the plant roots and soil which need them most.


  • Choosing quantity over quality

Sure, your location may have an abundance of rocks, wood chips, or sand that can be had for cheap or for free, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best material for your gardening or landscaping needs. Wood chips, for instance, can attract termites and other insects to your garden and home. Rocks and stones radiate heat and can cause stress to plants. Choose the best quality mulching material according to your gardening and landscaping needs very carefully – consult a professional gardener if you have to.


  • Uniformly mulching all the plants in your garden

Different plants require different mulching techniques. For example, annual plants and flowers don’t need a lot of mulch because it can increase humidity, which in turn could discourage blooming. Tree sizes have to be taken into consideration for the amount and the perimeter of the mulch you will use. Acid-loving plants also react differently to mulches, but they have been proven to thrive when mulched with composted materials.


  • Not mulching regularly

As previously mentioned, there’s a variety of mulching needs for different plants, but one thing they have in common is that mulching needs to done regularly. For organic materials, this could mean total mulch replacement or replenishing every few weeks for maximum nutritional benefits. For inorganic materials like rubber mulch, a year is enough for top-ups. Checking your plants regularly and observing changes in their stems, leaves, and blooms is also a must.


  • Mulching in the wrong places

There are wrong ways to mulch, and piling them up against the base of trees and roots of plants is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Gardeners refer to this as “volcano mulching” because of the shape it takes, and also the amount of heat generated by the mulch that harms the plant or trees. Don’t heap mulch around a plant; instead spread them evenly over the soil. For trees, leave a six-inch radius around the trunk free of mulch to allow the area to breathe.


  • Not using mulch creatively

If you find yourself with an abundance of excess mulching materials, don’t just throw them away. Be creative about them, especially if you have a DIY project that needs extra color, texture, and shape. Rocks can line pathways and flower beds, rubber mulch can form mosaics in different colors, and autumn leaves can be gathered for fall decoration projects.


  • Not thinking long-term when it comes to mulching


Mulching, for the most part, seems to be an instinctive activity where the best materials are literally just a stone’s throw away. But long-term benefits for your garden require long-term considerations. For instance, you might initially balk at the price tag of rubber mulch, but weighing the convenience and benefits it provides with the short-term pros of other mulches could prove to be illuminating.